The pre-Islamic city of Mleiha represents the peak of the area’s ancient civilization. During the last centuries BCE and after, an important caravan town flourished there – part of the network of Arabian overland trade that linked the shores of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean worlds in antiquity. Mleiha issued its own coinage, and its rulers and merchants were wealthy enough to acquire the finest camels and horses, and to build monumental tower tombs that expressed their status.
The archaeological evidence of the Mleiha area reaches back as far as the Palaeolithic period 130,000 years ago. Later, as the last Ice Age gave way to a warming climate, graveyards and adjacent settlements shed light on the lives of the Neolithic communities who lived there from 11,000 years ago. Civilization evolved during the succeeding Bronze Age from 3000 bce onward, evidenced by elaborate communal tombs. The centuries that followed witnessed the introduction of the underground falaj irrigation system. Domestication of the camel enabled extensive trans-regional trade connections. There is evidence for all of these developments in the Mleiha area.